Chicken Asparagus Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

          Paulo and I recently returned from a long visit to the Colorado mountains.  And I must say, I am experiencing serious symptoms of withdrawal.  Why, we ask ourselves, did we leave that lovely place?  Leaving behind 72o days for 107o, cool drifting breezes for stagnant humidity, lush green vegetation for dry, brittle grass and dying bushes.  Why?  Why, why, why? (she sighed repeatedly).  I’ve mentioned elsewhere our love for that glorious state, but each time we visit we are stunned yet again by its beauty.

          At home we prepare the food that you see on this site.  Delicious, yet healthful.  Satisfying, yet light.  (With a few marked exceptions, of course.)  When we travel, however, our cooking style seems to alter significantly, with no conscious decision on our part.  The change just seems to happen.  For the long drive out, I threw some frozen boneless chicken thighs into a resealable bag, along with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and a huge dollop of Zatarain’s Creole Mustard (my favorite).  Then I found a cup of coconut milk in the fridge, leftover from the Nearly-Flourless Chili Corn Muffin Bites (soon to be posted), and added that as well.  Many (many, many) hours later, when we arrived at our destination in Colorado, the chicken was thawed and wonderfully marinated.  (Odd as it sounds, the flavor combination worked perfectly.)  Paulo threw the chicken on the grill, I steamed some broccoli, and we ate our wonderful little dinner on the deck along with pale ales, surrounded by trees and overlooking the mountains.  That was the healthiest we ate for the rest of the trip.

          As the days progressed, we made a shepherd’s pie piled high with mashed taters, a huge turkey meatloaf flavored with Cajun Seasoning, crispy chicken legs grilled to smoky tenderness, and pizza dripping with fresh mozzarella, among other dishes.  And, of course, for lunch we ate leftovers from the nights before, in particular big, fat meatloaf sandwiches with mayonnaise and tomatoes on wheat bread.  Heavenly.  And with every dinner we drank a few pale ales, or a bottle of wine, whatever seemed appropriate.  One night, after dinner, we drove to a nearby mountain river, opened chairs on the rocky bank, and sipped Merlot as the sun disappeared in the West, while cool darkness filled the forest and icy water rushed past.

          Now having returned, we’ve reverted to a more healthful way of eating, though cooking with heat in this climate seems far less appealing.  This recipe (adapted from one provided by Jesse Ziff Cool) is perfect for sticky, hot, hazy days, when the thought of turning on the stove is almost revolting.  The salad is cool, crisp, fresh, and creamy, perfect for a little post-vacation detoxification.

Chicken Asparagus Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

1 lb cooked boneless chicken, room temperature

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1″ lengths on the crosswise diagonal

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley

1 clove garlic

1 T dill  (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)

1 T tarragon  (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)

1 T red wine vinegar

1/2 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

          Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Steam the asparagus just until crisp-tender, then cool to room temperature.  (If you are using frozen thawed asparagus, then skip the steaming step.)

          In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining ingredients until a smooth dressing has been achieved.  Combine the dressing with the chicken and asparagus.  Add more salt and pepper, if needed.  Refrigerate until chilled.  (The dressing will thicken upon cooling.)

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